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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Comment of the Moment: Neil Young Empties the Vaults + Were The Bootleggers Right?

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Earlier this week we posted an article on Neil Young Empties the Vaults: The Bootleggers Were Right | Paste.

The article examines -- to a degree -- some of the ethics, ambiguities and legalities around the subject of bootleg records. 

And -- of course -- our rustie grain friends weighed in on the subject and the delicate morality involved. Here is our Comment of the Moment by Kevin D. :

“the bootleggers may have been right” – Yes indeed but like most things the subject I believe is a little more nuanced. 

To me there are two distinct and separate forms of bootleg – one is a live recording (audience or soundboard) vs outtake, alternate versions or in Neil’s case, lost albums. 

The issue of copyright hangs over all of this like a dark shadow but to simplify it (if you would indulge me) it can be argued recordings of live performance may or may not fall under the artist copyright but the fact that a paying punter has “paid” to see and listen the performance makes the issue of copyright complicated. If you are interested in learning more on the legal aspect Clinton Heylin book “Bootleg – the secret history of the other recording industry” is a good read.

I am not a lawyer so will leave that matter to them but getting back to live performances they have great value to me as a fan since most of us are unable to attend every Neil show for various reasons and in Neil’s case, they provide ways to hear unreleased songs in a delivery approved by the artists since they are performing them. This was especially true back in the 70’s. 

Another reason “the bootleggers may have been right” they provide better versions of songs than their studio album counterparts a good example of this would be the album “Life” vs the Trade Mark of Quality boot “Damage Done” from the 1986 Crazy Horse tour. To me the boot is a more enjoyable listen.

However, now we start to get into the area of artistic vision and creativity, and it should be stated in my view Neil’s artistic vision trumps all rights and we must respect his choice to issue Life vs a live concert recording of the tour. Does this make the bootleggers wrong? Not necessarily in my view. But it does raise the question that if Neil chooses not to release something which is his artistic and creative right, we should respect that artistic decision. The fact as fans we may be interested to hear those outtakes and lost albums does not give license to bootleggers to release them. So, I can see the argument here that the bootleggers were wrong.

As fans of Mr. Young, we are interested in all things Neil, albums, concerts, outtakes and lost albums to help us understand and appreciate Neil’s as an artist more fully. So back before NYA and Sir Bob’s bootleg series and Bruce Springsteen live series the bootleggers were simply meeting market demand.

Were they right? I am not so sure it even matters as folks like me, and I suspect some of you go to Neil’s shows (at least before thicket prices reached ridiculous prices, but that is another story) buy all his albums, box sets etc. so the argument that bootlegs take away artistic sales is mute IMHO.

So maybe it is not the bootleggers were right as so much the record companies and artists were a little slow on the uptake?

Kevin D. in Morro Bay

 Thanks for the thoughts here Kevin D. Most appreciate your sharing.

As we stated in our original post, the question is not whether "the bootleggers may have been right" but that the record labels were clearly wrong.

Ironically, for once, the greed of the record labels wasn't in the fans or artists best interests.  Although another topic someday might have been the impact on Neil's career if much of the unreleased 1970's work had actually been released at the time.

And if it had not been for those enterprising bootleggers, some of the best of live concert performances would have never been heard except by those lucky enough to be in the audience.

More on Neil Young Empties the Vaults: The Bootleggers Were Right | Paste. 

More on  Neil Young's Official Bootleg Series.

Labels: , , , ,


At 2/29/2024 10:48:00 AM, Blogger Kevin D. said...

@Thrasher - Thanks for posting as COM always a thrill for me when my thoughts are well received. Your point about bootleggers not so much right but the record companies are wrong is well taken and my current Neil collection would not be the same without said boots. Thanks again. Kevin D. in Morro bay


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